Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Approximately 140 million people worldwide suffer from alcoholism, the uncontrollable and compulsive consumption of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, or any kind of liquor. Alcoholism can lead to a variety of problems in a person’s social life, family life, and health. After long-term use of alcohol a person develops an increased tolerance, physical dependence, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is the blanket name for the symptoms experienced when a person reduces or suddenly stops their alcohol consumption.

Some people who undergo alcohol withdrawal syndrome only experience mild symptoms; these mild symptoms can include anxiety and trouble sleeping. However, for a great number of people, these symptoms can be much worse and can even result in death. The severity of the symptoms one might experience is based on several different factors such as genetics, age, and the length of time the person has been consuming alcohol, as well as the severity of their alcoholic intake. Due to the decrease of blood alcohol concentration in a person’s body during sleep, these symptoms show up most predominately during a person’s early waking hours.

The Most Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Here is a list of the common symptoms one suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome might experience:

  • Agitation or Restlessness – Most commonly people suffering from agitation will experience psychomotor agitation in which their body will undergo a variety of unintentional motions due to anxiety or mental tension.
  • Alcoholic Hallucinosis – A limited set of auditory or visual hallucinations, most often threatening voices, involving no physical symptoms; this usually occurs within the first twenty-four hours of a person’s withdrawal.
  • Anorexia – Those suffering from alcohol withdrawal often lose the desire to eat.
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks – Brief periods when a person suffers from overwhelming nerves and nervous actions, such as pacing. Anxiety attacks usually stem from the worry of something unusually bad to occur, often death. Panic attacks are overwhelming fear and apprehension that can cause difficulty breathing, dizziness, and other problems. A person may feel as though they may be suffering from a heart attack.
  • Catatonia – An occurrence in which a person experiences motor immobility.
  • Confusion – The inability to remember simple things or recognize objects that were once familiar, common occurrences can seem jumbled, and a person can easily find themselves out of place or lost. This can occur anytime within the first twelve days of withdrawal.
  • Delirium Tremens – The most severe symptom of withdrawal; it only occurs in about 5-10% of cases. Those experiencing this symptom can have nightmares, agitation, auditory and also visual hallucinations, hypertension, disorientation, sweating, and tachycardia. If untreated, it can also lead to death.
  • Depersonalization – A feeling in which you have no control of your own actions and are merely watching yourself act.
  • Depression – A deep sadness that is hard for the person suffering to pull themselves from, often resulting in inactivity and low appetite. A person with depression tends to keep to themselves and seldom venture out of their home comfort zone.
  • Derealization – Similar to depersonalization, in which occurrences feel unreal to the observer.
  • Diaphoresis – Often associated with a fever, excessive sweating is common for those undergoing withdrawal.
  • Diarrhea – Loose bowels and the uncontrolled release of one’s bowels.
  • Euphoria – The feeling of intense or overwhelming happiness or delight.
  • Fear –  Fear of many different things can occur such as the person’s future, or for their health or well being.
  • Gastrointestinal Upset – Pain in the stomach or the inability to control the release of one’s bowels.
  • Hallucinations – Auditory and Visual Hallucinations often occur in many cases of severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome; the person will hear or see non-existent voices, things, or places, believing they are there.
  • Headache or Migraine – A common, mild or severe headache or migraine is very common.
  • Hypertension – Elevation of the blood pressure in the arteries causing the heart to work harder in order to maintain a normal circulation of blood. High blood pressure can persist for up to twelve days after the beginning of withdrawal.
  • Hyperthermia or Fever – Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature. Fever can also occur within the first four to twelve days after the cessation of drinking.
  • Insomnia – The inability to sleep which can lead to abnormal sleeping patterns and tiredness or fatigue during normal hours.
  • Irritability – Being more emotionally affected, get upset quickly or easily, and not wanting to be around others is common for those experiencing irritability during their withdrawal.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – Often during this process a person’s body attempts to release the toxins left over causing nausea and vomiting.
  • Palpitations – Palpitations are an abnormal heart beat which can lead to difficulty breathing or dizziness. Most commonly, this refers to a skipped heart beat, multiple skipped heart beats, or an accelerated heart rate.
  • Psychosis- A mental state of the mind in which it is difficult for the sufferer to connect directly with reality. This can cause impaired insight, hallucinations, violence, and delusions.
  • Seizures- Involuntary movements and convulsions of the body that can lead to death.
  • Tachycardia- An increased heart rate, exceeding the normal range of 100 beats per minute.
  • Tremors- An involuntary movement, contraction or relaxation involving twitching or oscillations, of one or more parts of the body. These can most commonly occur within twelve to twenty-four hours after the person’s last alcoholic beverage.
  • Weakness- A feeling of fatigue or tiredness is a normal symptom for those suffering from even a light withdrawal from alcohol.

These symptoms can occur individually or together and can increase or decrease in severity at any time. If you suspect that you or someone that you know is experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome, it is important to get them professional medical care as soon as possible.

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